The Foundation of our City


What links the Graham Sutherland tapestry at Coventry Cathedral, the Coventry Boy Statue by Philip Bentham, the Fisherman and the Nymph at Coombe Abbey by Percy George Bentham and the Coventry Cross, with carved statues by Philip Bentham, Wilfred Dudeney, George Ford and pennants by George Wagstaffe?

The answer – they were all funded or partly funded by the Coventry Boy Foundation.

So, who or what was the Coventry Boy Foundation?

Alfred Harris, a Keresley businessman, was the sole benefactor of the Coventry Boys Foundation which he created. The charity first came into the news in the mid 1960’s when an anonymous gift was made to Keresley Parish Church for a walkway and ornamental garden. Over the years there were many more gifts which beautified the city and surrounding countryside. Among them were churchyard projects at Corley, Ansty, Stoke, Baginton and Sherbourne. He also liked to provide statues and other public art.

This charity was first registered on 27 Apr 1965. George Footitt of Browetts, the firm that administered the Foundation, said: “Throughout his life, Alfred Harris’s philosophy was to repay to the city something of what he had gained through his business interests. The Foundation was a registered charity whose income was distributed each year at the direction of the founder and five other nominated persons. In March 1996, 21 years after the death of the benefactor and on the death of the last trustee, my father Ted Footitt, the capital of the fund was paid over to the National Trust for places of historic interest or national beauty in accordance with the Trust Deed.”

Mr Harris died in 1975 and is buried at St. Thomas’s Church in Keresley.

Paul Maddocks

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